Moving from the office to remote work. Adopting social distancing and contactless service protocols. Learning to use emerging technologies and tools. Preparing for a lateral or upward move within an organization.

These are just a few examples of scenarios where workers would need to learn new skills — they’d need to reskill or upskill. The terms “reskilling” and “upskilling” refer to training that updates learners’ skills or teaches them new ones so they can keep up with their changing job roles.

  • Upskilling enables workers to adapt to changes in their job roles, whether due to automation, adoption of a new software package, or a shift in how things are done.
  • Reskilling adds new skills to prepare workers for a promotion or lateral move, or perhaps to take on new challenges within their current role.

Automation drives some reskilling

A McKinsey study published in January found that 87% of organizations already face skills gaps or expect to within a few years, as markets change and technology reshapes job roles and automates some tasks. Organizations facing skills gaps are increasingly turning to reskilling and upskilling existing employees — rather than hiring — to fill those gaps.

Research by Deloitte finds that reskilling, along with “work re-invention” is a necessary response to increased automation. Most companies surveyed believe that automation changes jobs, rather than eliminating them wholesale — often in positive ways. In fact, many respondents believe that “automation, by removing routine work, actually makes jobs more human, enabling the role and contribution of people in work to rise in importance and value.”

Reskilling to focus on uniquely human abilities means emphasizing — and training for — soft skills like creativity, curiosity, and empathy, according to Deloitte. Redesigning work to empower employees to use these skills — while reducing the number of rote tasks they do — adds meaning to work and boosts employee morale.

Workers are eager to learn

Man sitting against a tiled wall in a blue button-up shirt, smiling while looking at his mobile phone. Sitting to his left is a brown, disposable coffee cup.

Reskilling may be necessary to enable workers to keep pace with the changing demands of their jobs. Upskilling, though, might be optional — workers often want to learn new skills so they can take on new challenges, move up, or move laterally into new roles.

Training is a key element in improving employee experience and motivating employees to remain with employers long term. Deloitte found that, among 2,400 survey respondents,  what “inspired” the largest number of workers was “the nature of the work itself,” followed by “the ability to learn, grow, and progress.”

LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report found that an astounding 94% of employees would stay longer at a company that invested in their development — and that three-quarters of employees want to learn at work.

Upskilling and reskilling tap hidden potential

Feeding workers’ desire to learn by increasing and updating their skill sets empowers managers to tap into their potential — while also filling skills gaps and improving the organization’s overall performance. “Reskilling has become a growth imperative for organizations, many of which have seen positions go unfilled for months or years for lack of the right talent to fill them,” the Deloitte report said.

Integrating learning and work with ambitious reskilling and upskilling initiatives is a win all around — for learners, employers, and the bottom line.

Poor Use with
Adult Learners
Effective with
Adult Learners

Games

Simple games layered on top of content

Scenario-based games that use the content

Leaderboards, competition

Fan excessive competition among employees or teams by offering large prizes for top performers and/or shaming those with lower scores

Challenge employees to beat their own past performance, or design a leaderboard that shows each employee only the four scorers above and below them

Points, rewards, badges

Award points or levels for completing sections of training or playing for a set number of minutes

Award levels, badges or points for recalling or applying content correctly, demonstrating mastery

  • Remember — bookmark, google, link, search
  • Understand — annotate, Boolean search, journal, tweet
  • Apply — chart, display, execute, present, upload
  • Analyze — attribute, deconstruct, illustrate, mash, mind map
  • Evaluate — comment, editorialize, moderate, network, post
  • Create — blog, film, integrate, podcast, program, publish
A smiling, mature man with short brown hair and a mustache. He sports a black suit jacket and a gray button up shirt with no tie.

As Neovation's Manitoba Territory Manager, I'm continually reminded of the resiliency, innovation, and initiative of Manitoba’s business community. Seeing these budding entrepreneurs develop and present their business plans reinforces that Manitoba is a great place to do business.

– Gord Holmes

Comparison of the Three Levels of eLearning Content
Type
Off-the-shelf subscription libraries
Pros
  • Saves development time - you don’t have to create any courses yourself.
  • Good fit for a limited budget.
  • Quick to set up and launch.
  • Access to hundreds of courses on a wide variety of topics.
Cons
  • Users cannot make any changes to the pre-existing content.
  • Users do not own any of the content.
  • An overwhelming amount of courses and a short time in which to complete the training can create a higher likelihood of users experiencing learner fatigue.
  • Learners may view content that isn’t relevant to their learning objectives.
  • Time and resources can be spent curating your content library to suit your learners.
Type
Course customization
Pros
  • A premade course that is quick to set up and launch.
  • Customization options such as adding your logo, branding, choice of colors, or some fonts.
Cons
  • You do not own the content of the course.
  • You cannot make significant changes to the content of the course (e.g. adding your own images, data, or organization’s terminology).
  • You cannot make significant changes to the content of the course (e.g. adding your own images, data, or organization’s terminology).
Type
Fully custom courses
Pros
  • Completely tailored to meet your organization's audience, needs, and strategies.
  • You have limitless creative potential.
  • You own the original content/IP.
  • Prevent learner fatigue through personalization.
  • You can change, personalize, and maintain the courses however you want and at your discretion.
Cons
  • More expensive - custom courses are a bigger investment for both time and resources.
  • Learners will not have access to as many course options as quickly as they would through a library subscription.
  • A professional eLearning development team should be assigned to this project - either hired in-house or contracted.
Pamela S. Hogle

An experienced writer, editor, tech writer, and blogger, Pam helps you make sense of learning science and eLearning technology. She provides information you can use to drive improvements in your training effectiveness and ROI.

Read more articles by Pamela S. Hogle